Why Routines Make Classroom Management Easier; Plus One Great Idea

Before every shot, professional golfers follow a very specific procedure, unique to them, called a pre-shot routine.

From the moment they pull a club out of their bag to the moment they take their swing, they follow the exact same set of movements.

Like a well-choreographed dance, these pre-shot movements are repeated dozens of times throughout a round of golf.

The best golfers in the world use a pre-shot routine because it helps them eliminate the mental clutter that can interfere with making a good shot. It frees them to focus on the shot itself and not on peripherals, making the task of getting the ball into the hole easier.

This is why Tiger Woods and his caddie react so angrily to overzealous fans that take pictures or yell out, “You da man!” before a shot. It interrupts his pre-shot routine. Whenever this happens, Tiger backs away from the ball and starts his routine over again.

It’s that important.

Peak performers in every industry, including sports, business, and education, follow routines in order to focus on the things that matter most. Students, too, benefit from the use of thoroughly taught, well-established classroom routines.

In fact, they are the lifeblood of a successful classroom.

The Benefits Of Routines

Routines—also known as classroom procedures—rid students of distractions that waste time and interfere with learning. Guesswork is minimized. Minor frustrations and inconveniences are fewer, as are opportunities for misbehavior. The students, then, are left to focus on learning.

If your students know what to do and how to do it during every transitional or procedural moment of the school day, they can more easily attend to what is most important. Furthermore, adding more responsibility and purpose is a surefire way to boost morale.

Well-executed routines also save time and lessen a teacher’s workload.

Instead of giving directions ad nauseam and talking students through transitions, passing out papers, leaving and entering the classroom, and dozens more, these tasks are automated into routines, allowing you to merely observe and focus your thoughts on the next activity.

For everything your students do in your classroom repetitively, there should be a routine.

One Great Idea

The US Marines consider routines a way of life. They drill them over and over until they become second nature. The reason is because routines help them stay safe in the field. When placed in dangerous situations, instead of being distracted by fear and panic, they’re able to fall back on their routines and focus on getting the job done.

Of course, our students aren’t soldiers; they benefit from doses of levity and humor. Routines absent amusement can be drudgery for students and make the teacher feel like General Patton.

You can have the highest expectations for your students and still keep a spirit of fun and enjoyment in your classroom.

Many years ago, Rick Morris shared with me the idea of using music from old television shows to initiate routines—with each piece of music prompting a different routine.

For example, the music from The Simpsons might signal that students leave their desks and reconvene on the carpet in front of the room for a read aloud. Mission Impossible might mean that it’s time to get ready for literature circles.

But what makes this idea really cool is that the length of each song is the amount of time students are given to complete the procedure. So, for example, the 36-second opening theme to The Office might be used to indicate to students that it’s time to line up for lunch.

Within those 36 seconds, the students must clean up their work area, push in their chairs, and get in a straight line before the song ends. With experience, a teacher can choose the exact song to match each routine.

And after awhile, students get to know the songs so well that the music acts as an internal clock, much like the iconic Jeopardy theme is used as a timer for the show’s contestants.

Students love this idea because the songs are silly, they make routines seem… well, less routine, and they represent a challenge.

Students love challenges, and upon hearing the music, they’re universally determined to complete the procedure before the song ends—which you’ll find to be an excellent teamwork/community builder.

Everyday routines are thus completed quickly and efficiently. Best of all, you don’t have to open your mouth. Just point your remote at a boom box and set the routine in motion.

PS – Thousands of TV theme songs, old and new, are available to download for free at televisiontunes.com.

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10 Responses to Why Routines Make Classroom Management Easier; Plus One Great Idea

  1. Donna November 8, 2009 at 4:18 am #

    Thank you Michael – the use of theme songs is a wonderful idea – especially now with ipods where you can find and play the songs so quickly….Cheers

    • Michael Linsin November 8, 2009 at 8:27 am #

      Yes, you’re absolutely right. And with the ability to have so many song choices at your fingertips, iPods are a great way to go.


  2. Brenda June 4, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Michael: Rick’s TV theme songs link is broken–do you have a new link for that?

    • Michael Linsin June 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

      Hi Brenda,

      It should work now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!


  3. Linda G November 14, 2011 at 7:09 pm #


    Wanted to let you know that I used The Simpson’s theme song (twice in a row – to make it almost 3 mins in length) to allow my grade 7/8s to write in their agenda, get their homework ready, clear their desk, put their chair on their desk and head out to their locker (something that has always taken over 5 mins!) In less than 3 mins, all but 2 students were out the door!

    Thanks for the tip!

    • Michael Linsin November 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

      Great Linda! Thanks for sharing.


  4. Edwin November 30, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    I really like this, its very encouraging

  5. Jessica October 30, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    I teach in a general Ed. Elementary classroom and there are a ton of transitions a day. We use, and enjoy, music transitions. Any advice on how to make the transitions more quiet? Or even just students not starting to chat again during paper passing, etc?

    • Michael Linsin October 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Hi Jessica,

      You set your expectations and then practice until your students get it. After that, it’s just a matter of seeing it through. In other words, if your students stray from those expectations, you send them back to redo the transition.


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